The Kite Runner has a huge world-wide success as a book written by Khaled Hosseni. An epic tale of guilt and retribution set against the changing landscape of a much battled Afghanistan. The book has time to fully explore childhood joy, then the fear and persecution that existed as different religious and political factions took over and changed the landscape forever.
In adapting this epic story, playwright Matthew Spangler had to make decisions about what aspects he would concentrate on. He chose the desperate need for Amir , the central character to gain acceptance and praise from his strong willed father, Baba. Born into a wealthy Pushtan family, this deep rooted need stems from his mother dying bringing him into the world. But his emerging desire to be a writer and storyteller sets him against his father’s desires for him.
Growing up, and closely reliant on his best friend Hassan, nicely underplayed by Andrei Costin. Their friendship is tested as Hassan is the son of Ali the family servant and is Hazara. Facing the taunting chant of ‘flat nose” Hassan has two weapons to fight the abuse handed down to him and Amir, his excellence with a sling-shot and the label of being the best Kite Runner. Working alongside Amir they eventually win the Kite flying tournament , and for a brief time Amir becomes his father’s ‘golden boy’. But with it comes terrible guilt. He has run away from a scene of physical and sexual abuse that is dealt out by the Assef and his Pushtan mates when Hassan refuses to give up what him and Amir have won.
Amir carries the guilt of this betrayal for the rest of his life. Through his exile and marriage in America and then his final return to Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s son Sohrab. Where he finds the real truth about his past.
Amir is the narrator of his own life story and David Ahmad as Amir gives an excellent performance. He shows the angst ,fear, and ever existing guilt extremely well. But in making such a large part of the production narration, a lot of the other characters are somewhat under developed. Also the background battles and upheaval of living through, and fleeing from different regimes are somewhat lost in the episodic nature of the action of the play. There needed to be more emphasis on the brutality to set Amir’s story against.
Giles Croft and designer Barney George have come up with a clever way of staging the piece, with its multiple locations and shards of timber that become the alley ways and then the sky-line of San Francisco. The whole company give strong performances and the audiences will definitely be moved by the such a strong story, but the adaptation is the thing that is holding this back from being a great piece of theatre.